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Twins of Evil (1971)

Twins of Evil rounds out the Karnstein trilogy with what some refer to as the last great Hammer horror film.  Two twins, Frieda and Maria Gellhorn are sent to live with their Aunt and fanatical puritan Uncle Gustav (Peter Cushing).  Gustav is the head of the church's witch hunting group who scourers the countryside on a nightly basis searching for young beautiful women whom they suspect to be witches, then burning them at the stake.  But with all the concern for the evil followers of Satan, none of them dare tangle with the king of sinners and known Satan worshiper Count Karnstein.  Karnstein's political ties provide him somewhat of an immunity to the fanatical actions of the church, who fear retribution from high authorities if they harm him.

Karnstein doesn't do much to hide his debauchery, he freely practices his satanic rituals in his castle on the hill.  The problem is his everyday virgin sacrifice is beginning to bore him, he wants a higher position in the servitude of the Prince of Darkness, a request that is soon granted when one of his blood sacrifices awakens an old ancestor named Mircalla.  Mircalla turns Count Karnstein into a vampire that he may serve the Devil on Earth forever!  Meanwhile Frieda, the more rambunctious of the Gellhorn twins, begins to rebel against the discipline of Uncle Gustav and soon finds herself enjoying the company of Count Karnstein, who promptly turns her into a vampire. With two vampires running around the death toll starts to add up and once Gustav realizes one of them is his niece the pressure is on to finally put an end to Count Karnstein's evil ways.

To many Twins of Evil is regarded as the best of the Karnstein trilogy and the last great Hammer horror film.  I disagree with the first comment and haven't seen enough of the remaining Hammer horrors of this time to have an opinon on the second.  For me Twins of Evil is tied with Lust For A Vampire on the overall entertainment value scale, I'll explain why shortly.  First off while this may be the third film in the trilogy it chronologically takes place before the first two films and is thus referred to as a prequel.  The main character of the first two films, Mircalla, only makes and brief appearance this time around, instead it's Count Karnstein, who had a rather limited role in the first two, who takes the lead as the film's main vampire and villain.

The "Twins of Evil" where played by sisters Madeleine and Mary Collinson, both eighteen years old and cast as the lead eye candy after the producers spotted them in the October 1970 issue of Playboy magazine.  Having been born in Malta, their English was a little shaky, so once again the magic of dubbing was used to give them a crisp British accent, which strangely reminded me of Haley Mills, and the fact they're twins didn't help to obscure The Parent Trap feelings I had at times.  The true praise in the film goes to veteran Peter Cushing, who gives a wonderful performance as the girl's puritanical uncle whose bent on ridding the village of Satan's disciples, unfortunately most of the people he and his group murder are ironically quite innocent!  Cushing really out performs everyone to a point that he probably gives the best performance out of any of the actors in all three of the films.

Now to the reason Twins of Evil fails to be my favorite, it's mainly the fault of the story.  It's possibly another case of bad editing, but I'm quite certain I have the original UK cut.  Everything seemed to occur so quickly that I was left with the feeling I was missing the transitioning between certain major plot points in the film.  For example the girls arrive at their new home where Frieda is instantly against everything.  She sneaks out the Karnstein Castle uninvited and becomes and vampire, where she then roams the countryside feeding on people.  All of this seems to occur in a period of a couple days, and the film jumps around without ever seemingly indicating how much time is passing between these occurrences or explaining how we got there.  Frankly, I felt at times I was watching a film that had some key transitional scenes cut out, and since I'm quite sure I have original cut of the film I can only assume it's poor editing which causes the flow of the story to appear a little choppy.

Other than the flow I enjoyed everything else about Twins of Evil.  It's by far the darkest of the trilogy, yet on the flip-side probably the tamest in terms the sexual themes compared to the first two, making it more of a traditional horror film compared to the first two entries in the trilogy.  Overall, if you enjoyed the first two I'd say you'd be pretty safe in expecting the same, if not greater enjoyment out of this one, I might not count it as the best, but I do consider it to be a worthy addition to the series.



  1. I don't think any of the three films have any connection other than the vampires family name.

    Frieda doesn't just show up at the castle, the Count had his eye on her in an earlier scene and even made mention of the twins in the same scene to Cushing's character. She is later picked up by the Count's servant and taken to the castle. Unless I've misunderstood your statement, MVP, I don't recall anything that appeared missing at least not to me. It's easily the goriest of the three films. There was one cut scene on one of the DVD releases, but it was just an extension of a choir sequence with David Warbeck.

  2. I don't think I said they had any connection. Although the character of Count Karnstein is in all three films, he's referred to as the Man in Black in the first one and the Count in the second. Technically this is a prequel because it occurs prior to the other films where the Count was already a vampire.

    Nothing may have been missing I just felt the editing of the film left a rather choppy feeling to me, almost like they did cut some scenes out. At times this threw me.

  3. I just see them as stand alone features. The Count and the others were all shown to be staked in the flashback from the first film yet nothing is explained as to how they have returned.

    'The Man In Black' is presumed to be the Count, yet it's never stated otherwise. He wears a Pilgrims outfit, but in the second film, he's decked out in full on Chris Lee Dracula regalia replete with a sound-a-like dubbed voice.

    In the third, Mircalla is already "dead", yet something is murdering people in the forest prior to her brief return. It's never revealed who has been putting the bite on those victims.

    I really enjoy the score for this one, too. I was able to get a hold of it on CD a couple years ago.

    The Karnstein's are also mentioned in CAPTAIN KRONOS. One of the villains is a descendant.

    I'm curious what you think of VAMPIRE CIRCUS. The editing on that one is choppy at times, it's troubled production being the reason. Still, there's more action in that one than several Hammer movies combined. The vamps are very energetic in that one.

  4. I understand what you mean. I don't see them connected either, although they do have some of the same main characters and is technically referred to as a trilogy. In some of the books I've read they outright say The Man in Black is Count Karnstein, and I never saw it as much of a stretch.

    I'm interested in watching Vampire Circus as well, although it will probably be sometime next year. I probably only have a couple more Hammer reviews left in me this month in addition to catching up with my Women of Hammer posts. I'm trying to branch the rest of them out in terms of subject matter, so probably no more vampire films this month. I've watched the first Frankenstein film, so I need to find time to review that.


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